Tuesday, August 13, 2002

If it's summer, Harris has a new sizzler

'Love of My Own' might be his best

By Shauna Scott Rhone srhone@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fans of E. Lynn Harris will enjoy his latest cautionary tale of passion and pretense, A Love of My Own. Like his other seven best sellers, Love is a saucy romp that smoothly blends popular characters from previous books with new loves and unexpected plot twists.

        Mr. Harris' novels traditionally are released in the summer, and reading one is like catching up with an old friend on a sweltering day over a spiked sorbet — that is, there's a little bit of familiarity, a lot of heat and a splash of cool going down with a kick at the end. His newest might just be his best.

        Series regular Raymond Tyler and newcomer Zola Denise Norwood, alternate as the book's hosts in the unpredictable world of magazine publishing. Both are movers and shakers at the hip-hop-styled Bling Bling magazine.

        After a painful breakup in Seattle, Raymond decides to take on Manhattan as the magazine's new CEO. His new boss, Davis Vincent McClinton, is hell-bent on surpassing the success of media moguls like BET's Robert Johnson, and his hard-driving obsession leaves many injured in his wake.

        Zola is a cagey but determined editor who is as insecure as she is successful. A sanity safety net of raucous girlfriends balances the craziness of her life. Zola believes that by juggling three men she can keep love and all its complications at bay. Unfortunately, one of those lovers is her boss.

        Davis is a conflicted man, driven both by his need to succeed and his need to keep a tragic past far away from his highly successful persona. When his secret is finally exposed, it threatens the lives of his employees along with his beloved magazine.

        Raymond's arrival in New York City brings him back into the life of longtime friend and former lover John Basil Henderson. Both have matured since their last encounter and even readers who have come to hate Basil will see a softer, disarming side of the former ladykiller and “down low” bisexual.

        Mr. Harris is a master at weaving fiction with reality. The book's East Coast setting, the tragedy of 9-11 and the death of the R&B phenom Aaliyah collide as the characters come to grips with both real-life reelers. One of Mr. Harris' new devices is Bling Bling Confidential, a series of catchy vignettes that give a behind-the-pages view of characters “too busy causing havoc to speak for themselves.”

        Basil's former love, Yancey Braxton, also returns along with her scheming mother, Ava, who wreaked havoc in Mr. Harris' most recent novel, Any Way the Wind Blows.

        One of Mr. Harris' most satisfying accomplishments in A Love of My Own is his ability to keep readers engaged right through to a strong, ends-tying finish. The pressure many successful novelists feel to hit publishers' deadlines sometimes causes them to rush a story, leaving it feeling jagged and unfinished. A Love of My Own finishes where it starts, full-tilt with surprises revealed and questions answered.


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